2022: Our impact so far and what’s next in the race to zero
We are well on the race to zero, and it shows. Businesses are a key element for the UK’s Net Zero ambition and the call to action reached new volumes in 2022. In 2022, over 100 new organisations from a wide range of sectors joined the iiE programme to access our support and experience in cutting carbon emissions, reducing waste, engaging staff and supporting biodiversity & their local communities.
Our team are immensely proud of all those members who gained or retained their accreditation during the year and we cheer on those who are managing to introduce change alongside many other business pressures. We celebrate those who draw upon our training and resources to deliver results year after year, and who inspire us to innovate and adapt our offer to help more people as part of our not-for-profit mission.
Our growth in 2022
On analysing the increase in membership numbers, it has not just been a result of individual organisations choosing iiE as a programme which is easy to use and demonstrates results.
Some of our growth has been the result of supply chain pressures – demonstrating the powerful effect of an organisation making it clear that it only wants to do business with those who can demonstrate that they are tackling their environmental impact.
In the veterinary sector, we’re the ‘go-to’ sustainability experts, which has brought about tremendous traction in the profession, facilitating opportunities for creating good practice pathways. We are looking holistically at sustainable development by promoting aspect areas that have environmental and social co-benefits, such as responsible pharmaceutical stewardship and more efficient anaesthetic gas.
Alongside this, we’re working closely with professional services, local authorities, growth hubs and universities who have requested iiE’s assistance to develop new policies, deliver training and engage their networks in the environmental agenda. Such coalitions are needed to make progress at scale – networks that share knowledge and challenge each other to do better and keep going.
This progress is essential and achievable; what starts as small, incremental changes made at Bronze level soon becomes the gateway to the more transformational processes within an organisation undertaken by our Green level members. The latter being vital to move to a net zero carbon, waste-free world.
Key achievements during 2022
- We now have 280 members across the UK, rolling out environmental management systems and environmental performance targets in over 500 locations.
- We’re now a certified IEMA training centre and are delivering a selection of courses run by our knowledgeable and experienced team which aim to upskill our Green Champions and others in the sector with the professional qualifications they need to progress their careers in this exciting field
- We launched a new website and Members Area, with over 30 resources and short tutorials to make it easy for members to operationalise their sustainability goals by knowing where to start and what to do next. The new progress tracker also helps Green Champions easily complete their audit pack.
- We partnered with Vet Sustain to launch a new carbon calculator for their sector – an industry-specific tool allowing veterinary practices to create action plans from their carbon footprint.
- 92 members achieved their certification!
The difference we make
We are really working hard to increase the carbon literacy and environmental awareness of our member businesses. All membership levels are now required to carry out a carbon footprint for their direct activities and improve not only how they measure this key driver for change, but what they actually do to reduce the resulting figure. We focus on how and which resources are used and how to efficiently change ways of working.
We focus on getting people involved – helping them to understand the ‘why’, through events and campaigns that we support and run.
Our website and learning management system help the individuals doing this important work upskill and move their organisations along their journey.
Aside from hard data, we have collected some amazing stories about engagement projects. From conservation work to volunteering with local charities, from eliminating single-use plastics around the office to designing clinical trials to develop better protocols with reduced ecotoxicity. The projects have been as diverse as our membership.
In 2021, we reported some excellent carbon savings. This year, more members than ever before (Green, Silver, and Bronze) have reported material emissions within their value chain and have set new baselines. What’s more, the quality of carbon footprints has improved, meaning that the full sum of all audited member emissions has increased since last year because of more scope 3 inclusion in carbon footprinting.
The good news is that once you can identify the problem – or carbon hotspots – in a true and meaningful way, you can form effective action plans and track progress towards achieving reductions. Meaningful focus is now on supply chain engagement and working with organisations to form effective policies that will measurably cut those emissions.
Overconsumption is not only bad for our planet; it’s also bad for business. We work hard to improve people’s understanding of waste – how to eliminate sources of waste, how to reduce it, and even how to start thinking in a circular way – moving away from the ‘take-make-dispose’ model of our economy. For some, this starts with improving recycling rates but as our members improve, they should be able to show how they are cutting waste and improving resource use efficiency in all its forms.
There are hidden carbon costs in waste too, not to mention the damage it does to our wildlife and global health. Many of our members now focus on reusable items, and our healthcare and veterinary teams have been making swaps from reusable PPE, scrub hats, and other avoided impacts from cleaning products and single-use items.
This year we launched a new waste management plan template and ran three training webinars to help support people with the hard and soft skills to cut unnecessary waste.
We’re also working with members who can do their bit to not only improve green spaces and biodiversity around their buildings (like making a home for pollinators and choosing drought-resistant landscaping) but how they can influence and improve biodiversity. For some, this means educating their suppliers on regenerative farming, less harmful use of chemicals (from pesticides to cleaning products) and financing conservation projects that not only store carbon but also support creating or improving habitats.
Coming up in 2023 in the race to zero
- We’re looking to develop new partnerships to help us grow the membership to 400 organisations.
- We’re offering more member benefits, including a new short course for Green Champions -with free places for iiE members. Focused on the individual, participants will learn all the basics to help them develop the green skills and knowledge required to engage their business and support their career development
- The following IEMA courses are now open for booking:
- Environmental Sustainability Skills for the Workforce,
- Pathways to Net Zero, and
- Foundation Certificate in Environmental Management
- The 2023 iiE Awards will be in-person, with plenty of opportunity for networking. The date and full details will follow.
Changing business for the better is hard when we’re surrounded by fundamentally unsustainable systems. We see these challenges and work to develop practical solutions that make it easier for our Green Champions to start from anywhere and keep up their good work. And we recognise those who make it over the finish line, complete their audits, and start the whole process over again, moving ‘sustainability’ from being a project to an integrated function of the business.
Regardless of what happens at the next COP – whether our governments decide to lead or lag – we all have it within our power to take action today, do both the small things and keep chipping away at those bigger green projects.
I have a sense that 2023 will be the year of the Green Champions. The individual, the team, the group of people who are driving progress at a local level – making real things happen on the ground. We will do all we can to provide the right tools, promote your successes and share your stories; the world needs to hear and learn from them.
Have a greener, healthier, and more sustainably prosperous new year!
April & the iiE team
April Sotomayor is General Manager & Principal Consultant for Investors in the Environment. She is a Chartered Environmentalist and Full Member of the Institute for Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA).